Three pupils a day excluded from Scots schools over weapon attacks

Pupils are being suspended from schools in Scotland upwards of three times a day for assaults with weapons including knives, it has emerged.
Weapon attacks are on the rise in Scottish schools.Weapon attacks are on the rise in Scottish schools.
Weapon attacks are on the rise in Scottish schools.

And such attacks are on the rise in recent years, official figures show.

There are now calls for teachers to be given more support to deal with such situations for the safety of both pupils and staff. The Scottish Government insists there has been a dramatic fall in weapon crime in recent years.

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The issue of weapons in Scotland’s schools was thrust into the spotlight two years ago when 16-year-old Bailey Gwynne was stabbed to death during a confrontation in Aberdeen’s Cults Academy with fellow pupil Daniel Stroud, also 16.

There were 428 instances of a pupil being excluded for a physical assault using weapons such as knives in the last schools year (20116/17), according to recently published figures. There were also a further 311 incidents involving “improvised” weapons.

That total of 739 is higher than the 661 incidents two years previously, and the 710 reports in 2013.

On top of this, there were a further 434 pupils excluded over the threat of violence with a weapon.

Tory early years spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne said the figures are “alarming.”

“Parents will be horrified that two pupils a day are excluded for violent incidents involving a weapon – either conventional or improvised,” she said.

“That shows a problem with discipline remains within our schools, and that teachers need more support in dealing with it for the sake of their own safety and that of other pupils.

“If children aren’t shown now that the use of weapons, and other examples of violence, won’t be tolerated, the chances are they’ll continue doing it into adulthood.

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“These figures are a cause of concern not just for schools, but for society more generally.”

The Scottish Government introduced guidelines for schools in the aftermath of the Bailey Gwynne tragedy and pledged last year to ensure all councils are collecting data on knives collected in schools.

The latest official figures on exclusions also show there were 1734 put out of schools for fighting and 361 for substance misuse.

Theft (89), fire raising (190) and even indecent exposure (14) also featured on the list.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These figures should be seen in the overall context of a 64% reduction in crimes of handling offensive weapons over the last decade. The number of overall exclusions is also less than half the comparable figure from 2006-07.

“We are working with schools and local authorities on anti-violence campaigns and curriculum programmes on a range of initiatives.

“In Scotland it is already illegal to sell knives or similar products with blades or points to anyone under the age of 18, including online, and also illegal to sell cutlery and kitchen knives to those under 16.”

The prospect of radical new “search powers” for teachers has already been ruled out after it met with a frosty reaction from teachings unions and parents groups, as well as the police and medics.

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A spokeswoman for the EIS teching union said: “Schools and local authorities generally have robust procedures which make clear to all pupils the serious consequences of carrying any type of potential weapon and the EIS is clear that a zero tolerance approach should be taken to incidents involving violence or the threat of violence, with police involvement being sought under these circumstances. The focus should continue to be on building positive relationships in school and ensuring that students are aware of the dangers associated with carrying weapons.”

The No Knives Better Lives programme – which has received more than £3.4 million of Scottish Government funding since 2009 – has recently developed a play, The Balisong, which has been performed at more than 60 schools across Scotland.

A spokeswoman for local government body Cosla said: “Scottish Councils treat any violence incident in school with the utmost seriousness. As with all matters relating to criminal activity, we work in partnership with Police Scotland and other partners to address the matter appropriately.”